Terry Paulson

Take time to watch Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman, voted best U.S. documentary at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, and you’ll be confronted with the sorry state of America’s school system. How can America invent a more innovative and profitable future without a quality education system? In response, experts suggest that the dismissal of 1,000 of the country’s worst teachers would allow our great teachers to build on what’s been learned instead of being stuck teaching students what they should’ve already mastered.

But teacher unions resist any attempts to discipline and fire failing, sub-standard teachers. They also have squashed any attempt to pay for performance—rewarding at a higher level the best teachers and minimizing the pay of the less effective teachers. Instead of being part of the solution, they just keep campaigning for more money. With an exploding deficit at the national and state level, the funds aren’t there.

As President Obama’s team love to say, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Maybe it’s time “we the people” just blew our educational system wide open, and I don’t mean improve the Department of Education. Improvements are for wimps. I mean abolish it. Deep six it. Eliminate, toss, obliterate it; give it the old heave-ho; force it to walk the plank. It is broken and it’s wasting money our government doesn’t have while limiting education of our young people.

Continuing studies by the Pacific Research Institute have found that there are proven options that cost less, produce better results and keep and reward the best teachers and schools. It’s time we do more than read about what other countries are doing to become more American than America.

With California now facing a $25 billion plus deficit, it’s time for truly transformational change. That’s what happened in Sweden when political parties came together in times of fiscal crisis to institute a major transformation of Sweden’s educational system. Sweden, that bastion of progressive policies, let parents once again control where their children received their education. They moved from a school-district-controlled system to a voucher system that fostered competition and rewarded excellence in education.

In summary, the Swedish model is built on two pillars of choice: a voucher system at both the primary and secondary levels and varied high school tracks that allow students to choose from a smorgasbord of programs centered on three paths: college preparatory, vocational and a more remedial track.

Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.

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